Reasons to watch the New Russian Holmes series (2013)
I’ve blogged a lot about this show over the last month or so, but I’ve been meaning to make a big post about it all in one place, so here we go!
A brief intro for those who care:
Sherlock Holmes (2013), or, as it seems to be popularly called, New Russian Holmes (as opposed to the old Soviet Holmes), is an eight-episode Russian-language Sherlock Holmes adaptation directed by Andrei Kavun, starring Igor Petrenko as Holmes and Andrei Panin as Watson. It first aired in Russia in November 2013, but has had no official English release.
So where can I watch it?
Yeah but why should I watch it?
Because it is excellent. I don’t want to spoil people too much because discovering things yourself is really the best, but let’s be a bit more specific:
The opening credits:
Even before the first scene, we get treated to a beautiful opening sequence with really great music, but this isn’t just a sequence to shove credits in your face, it’s not even just an aesthetically pleasing series of shots of Watson’s notebook, the opening sequence forms part of the episode and part of the series as a whole.
Every opening is unique, from the images to the voiceover, and is as much a part of the story as the substantive scenes themselves.
The refreshing take on canon:
If you’re going to watch this, you need to know that the fundamental premise of the show is that the ACD canon lies. Watson’s “stories” are just that: stories. Holmes in real life is different, Watson is different, Mrs Hudson is different, the cases went differently, hell, even Gregson is different. So if you’re looking for a faithful replication of canon, this isn’t the show for you, but once you take on board this fundamental premise, it’s fantastic because it forces you to think about canon in a new light, and to consider the implications of Watson as an unreliable narrator.
You’ll get to see how and why Watson came to write “canon” the way he did, and you’ll get to see how everyone reacts to it. Every other adaptation (with the exception of Bert Coules’ radio series perhaps, but even that adheres to canon quite strictly) treats canon as more or less the “truth” and bases their version off that to create an output; this show treats canon as the output, and works backwards to imagine the “true” series of events behind it. This aspect (at least for me) was one of the most delightful themes to watch develop throughout the episodes, and it really shows how much original thought and passion went into the conception and creation of the show.
Watson as the true protagonist:
This sort of follows on from the fundamental premise of the canon stories being mere stories. Watson is the person through whom we get to know Holmes; everything we read is Watson’s doing, so it’s natural that the protagonist should also be Watson. We see the world from Watson’s perspective.
It’s not a story about this genius Holmes and his sidekick Watson, it’s a story about Watson and his adventures with this intriguing man, Holmes, and in that way it makes the show very grounded and very real.
Holmes the nerd:
For some reason, Igor Petrenko’s Holmes has been likened to Robert Downey Jr.’s Holmes, but I don’t think that’s accurate at all. Whereas RDJ’s Holmes veers more towards grubby cocky action hero who happens to be good at reasoning (and I don’t say that with any scorn), Petrenko’s Holmes is very much grounded in the same sheer intellect that defines canon Holmes, only this version is a more flawed, nervous character, which I think makes him more interesting. Petrenko does an excellent job with the quirks and mannerisms of the character. He also keeps insects in jars in his room.
Watson the military man:
A lot of adaptations emphasise Watson’s role as a doctor, but few seem to remember that he was also a soldier, so it’s refreshing once again to see this series not only acknowledge that military background, but to explicitly keep it front and centre the entire time.
Watson the surgeon:
For all its joviality, the show doesn’t shy away from graphic realities either. Watson is more than just a doctor, he’s a surgeon. We see him handle the scalpel more than he does the stethoscope.
Watson the badass:
I know I’ve posted a lot about this but seriously Panin’s acting is really one of the highlights of this show, he was such an excellent actor, absolutely convincing in his role.
Brand new revised subtitles by yours truly!
Over the last two months I’ve gone through and edited all the English subs for the series, so hopefully everything will read a lot smoother! Any remaining mistakes are entirely my responsibility.
Sort of reminiscent of the tone of the Soviet series, this series shares that light-heartedness, but it sure as hell isn’t a joke either. It’s not dark and edgy for the sake of being dark and edgy. It doesn’t pull the cheap trick of taking advantage of your feels. The series sets out to tell a story and it tells a beautiful story and you will genuinely love the characters for who they are. And you will feel good about it. Yes, you will even love Lestrade.
Watson taking a bath:
The hilariously bad English (I laugh in good faith):
The creepy autopsy man:
This weird ass scene:
Moriarty hiding in the first fucking episode no less
not showing you, you have to spot him yourself
And finally, their timeless friendship:
Never has a show felt more genuine or more satisfying to watch when the final credits roll. This is a Sherlock Holmes that has had thought, love, and appreciation poured into its making, and it shows.